Full Plate

Brennan's Market / facebook.com

Earlier this summer, the owners of a longtime staple on the Wisconsin produce scene announced they will shut their doors for good at the end of September. Brennan’s Markets was founded 75 years ago and operates five stores around Wisconsin, including in Brookfield and Oconomowoc.

Michelle Maternowski

The Lake Effect team headed to WE Energies Energy Park at the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis as part of our summer series Full Plate, which has been showcasing agriculture in our region. 

Maayan Silver

The tang of a freshly picked tomato, the crunch and sweetness of a recently harvested carrot, the crisp floral flavor of a just-picked cucumber. Chef Dave Swanson wants to facilitate restaurant-goers' ability to taste these items, and pretty much anything else that can be produced or foraged in Wisconsin.

Groundwork MKE

There’s a local youth agriculture program that has goals bigger than getting kids into farming. Milwaukee native Nick DeMarsh founded Young Farmers MKE with the intent to encourage participants to make goals and plans for the future - farming just seemed to be the perfect medium to get there.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Bees first began to creep into Charlie Koenen’s life in 2002. Today his previous careers in computer programming and consulting might as well belong to someone else altogether.

Koenen is a beevangelist through and through. “I never would have predicted the path, but the importance is really astonishing - a beehive when it’s operating. That’s the amazement I want to give everybody,” he says.

elenabsl / Fotolia

Earlier this summer, the owners of a longtime staple on the Wisconsin produce scene announced they will shut their doors for good at the end of September.  Brennan’s Markets operated five stores around Wisconsin, including in Brookfield and Oconomowoc.

Dave Parker / Flickr

Entering a grocery store, buyers are often bombarded with seemingly all-important yet ill-defined terms; words like “organic”, “sustainable”, or – perhaps the most pernicious culprit – “natural.”

But what do these terms actually mean? And how can consumers know if the foods they’re buying - usually at a premium - were grown or raised in an organic environment?

The US Department of Agriculture, or USDA, is tasked with setting minimum organic standards that farms of all sizes must meet, and then ensuring compliance with those standards.

Milk Prices 101

Jul 18, 2017
Kadmy / Fotolia

It may come as no surprise that much of our agriculture is wrapped up in dairy - after all, Wisconsin is called America's Dairyland. But despite the moniker, Wisconsin is not immune to the market forces that drive the price of dairy both here and throughout the country.

You might notice when you go to the grocery store, the price of milk varies a lot. In fact, it changes so much that it’s routine for some groceries and delis to post the price outside of the store - like signs at a gas station.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Molecular biologist Michael Schläppi experimented with rice varieties from around the globe for five years - testing how they stood up to Wisconsin weather in miniature paddies he built on his rooftop lab on campus.

He settled on a short-grain variety from Russia.

Two years ago, he took the experiment to a farm field outside Port Washington.

Mitch Teich

Summer is in full swing, and for many that means regular visits to a local farmers’ market. Since 1994, the number of farmers’ markets in the country has grown from less than two thousand to nearly nine thousand - and that's just counting the ones registered in the US Department of Agriculture’s directory. In fact, there are over 350 markets within 100 miles of Milwaukee.

petlyaroman / fotolia

Growing food doesn’t always occur in the country. From city-based commercial operations like Growing Power to personal backyards or even balcony herb and vegetable gardens, urban agriculture in Wisconsin’s largest city is booming.

Mitch Teich

Many of us find ourselves at a frozen custard stand or an ice cream shop on a summer weekend, but few of us give much thought to what goes into making the stuff in our cones. Bill Klein is different. 

Klein is the plant manager for the Babcock Dairy Plant at UW-Madison, which trains many of the people who make a living in ice cream, and the dairy world at large.

 

From canning to fermenting to dehydrating, Christina Ward is an expert in teaching Milwaukeeans how to preserve food. She says that among the many professional hats she wears, this is the one she’s particularly proud of.

“I’m the master food preserver, which means I’m a volunteer in my community charged with giving people the latest and greatest science,” says Ward.

 

We are a long time removed from the era in which farming represented the majority of southeastern Wisconsin's economy, but there remain many people who make a living on farms in the region.

Writer Anna Blessing highlights compelling stories of farms in Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest in her book, Locally Grown. In her acknowledgements, Blessing described the farmers she met “heroes," who approach their work as a kind of art. 

Pinehold Gardens / facebook.com

If you travel about seven miles south of Milwaukee County's airport, you’ll find one of the last farms that is run full-time by the people who own and live on the land they farm. David Kozlowski and Sandy Raduenz own Pinehold Gardens, and have grown produce using organic methods for the past 23 years.

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